MVHS to Mark Centennial of Burt Building, Where Good Humor Bar Was Born

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley Historical Society will mark the centennial of the building where Harry Burt created the Good Humor ice cream bar with a year of special events and a renewed fundraising push.

It was 100 years ago Monday – April 4, 1922 – that Burt opened his new retail and manufacturing building to the public.

Burt would go on to make history at the building at 325 W. Federal St., downtown, where he invented, manufactured and marketed the first ice cream confection on a stick. He also operated a restaurant and dance hall in the building.

“It was his vision and it was a spectacular vision,” said Bill Lawson said, executive director of the MVHS. “He was one of the great Youngstown entrepreneurs.”

Harry Burt

Burt would take his ice cream invention a step further by selling them from refrigerated trucks that roamed the streets of Youngstown. The jingling bells of his trucks sent children scurrying for a dime so they could get a treat, Lawson said. It was the advent of the ice cream truck, which remains a fixture in America.

The Mahoning Valley Historical Society now owns the Burt building, which is the location of the Tyler History Center.

Lawson unveiled the plans for the Burt centennial celebration at a press conference Monday at the building.

It will include a lecture on Burt on April 21; the unveiling of new interpretive panels about the building on June 21; an open house at The Tyler on July 17; and an open house at the Arms Family Museum on Sept. 11.

For information, go to MahoningHistory.org.

The MVHS also hopes to renew interest in its Donor Bar program. It hopes to sell 100 more of the custom-made metal plaques this year.

The Donor Bars are handmade by Wendell August Forge and look like candy bar wrappers. They are available in copper ($500), bronze ($250) and aluminum ($125), and can be engraved with the donor’s name, or in memory of a loved one. All of the bars will be mounted on a permanent display wall at the Tyler, along with previously sold bars. 

To purchase a bar, call MVHS development director Linda Kostka at 330 743 2589 or go to mahoninghistory.org.

Harry Burt donor bars.

Burt’s sweet story began in Bazetta Township, where he was born in 1874.

After moving to Cleveland, he relocated to Youngstown in 1893 as a business-minded 19-year-old with experience in sales.

He opened a candy store on South Hazel Street, downtown, and then a second location on North Phelps Street.

With his business growing, he purchased the building on West Federal Street in 1921 and opened it to the public the following year. The building was erected in 1920 – the same year he perfected his ice cream on a stick product.

“It was a way to eat ice cream without a bowl or getting messy that was sanitary to make and eat,” Lawson said. “His idea was to make ice cream like a hard-candy sucker.”

Burt’s vision for the building was not just a factor and store, but a public gathering place, and he quickly made it come true. The ground floor had a restaurant and soda bar, with a dance hall above it. The building also housed a candy making operation on the top floor and an ice creamery in the basement.

After Burt died in 1926 at age 51, his wife, Cora, took the company public. She sold the company and its patents to a group of investors dubbed The Good Humor Corp. of America in 1928, who made the product a household name.

Cora closed the ice cream production facility and restaurant in 1929. In 1935, she sold the building to the Ross Radio Co., which operated there until 2008.

Pictured at top: Mahoning Valley Historical Society Executive Director Bill Lawson and board President Scott Schulick.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.